Monday, December 19, 2011

A Return to Form...and a Digression...

I've been absent on the internet between finals and coming down with an ill-timed fever, but I'm finally home, feeling better, and sewing again! yay!  I wanted to finish up the dress I've been working on since last year before I started my new projects, and today I made the overskirt which is one of the final steps!  If I can get the pleated bertha (neck piece) finished tomorrow, then everything will be done except all the bodice handwork (which is admittedly, a lot of work) when I get back to campus in January.  I posted about my research on the project while abroad; in Scotland I developed a victorian-level obsession with tartan, and after months of sifting through examples of tartan in 19th century fashion I settled on this dress as the major inspiration for my new 1860s ballgown:

  The dress was originally worn in 1863 by the Princess of Wales to the annual 'Ghellies Ball' at Balmoral Castle, which was built in rural Scotland by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a vacation palace.  The entire thing was done up in tartans they designed--complete cultural appropriation but I find it sort of endearing that she was just as unrealistically enthralled with things as me...but with a (much) bigger budget.  Anyways, I went looking for more information, as the picture is not high quality and black and white, and found this:
This image is of Queen Alexandra in the late 19th century, wearing what I think is an altered version of the 1863 ensemble. The dress was part of an auction in 1937 of the queen's wardrobe, and the auction site helpfully also lists the catalog for the event.  The original description reads:

"Plaid satin panniers in the Royal Stuart tartan over a separate skirt of white satin ruffles outlined in red, with internal stiffening. Pointed bodice with pleated bertha trimmed with black lace, and short white tulle sleeves. With belt and separate collar. Worn at the Scottish Balls at Balmoral when H. M. the Queen first came to England"

This filled in some of the gaps from the picture of the dress in it's original form.  The dress is the Royal Stuart tartan, and based on the shading of the earlier picture I'm guessing that means the Royal Stuart Dress (as opposed to hunting) version of the tartan, which has a white base. 

Using this, I decided to make a new 1860s ballgown with a white underskirt, tartan bodice and overskirt, pleated bertha, and trimmed with black lace and red velvet ribbon.  It's not an exact replica of this dress, but it is heavily inspired by it.  
I'm really excited to be almost done with the project!  I'm planning to wear it to the Returning Heroes Ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers in March...and as many other things as I can.

While sewing I started what will probably be a marathon of Jane Austen movie adaptations.  I ended up taking this quiz this evening, and was quite pleased with the results!  

Hopefully there will be more exciting projects (and pictures) soon!

~ L

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